Steamboat book store’s new club pairs wine with novels

Off the Beaten Path will begin hosting regular Wine and Book Club events at the bookstore on the last Friday of each month starting this month.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Employees at the Off the Beaten Path Bookstore want the shop to be a hub for Steamboat’s book-loving community, and their new monthly Wine and Book Club seeks to combine the mental stimulation of a good book with the social instigation of a good wine.

“We just thought it’d be a good opportunity to introduce our community to some different texts, different styles of writing,” said Gretchen Fleck, who will be choosing the wine each month and leading the tastings.

The club will meet from 6-6:30 p.m. on the last Friday of every month, with the first coming Jan. 27. The event will feature “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” by Muriel Barbery, a French author who tells the story of a remarkably intelligent concierge at a lavish apartment complex that quietly scrutinizes the lives of the building’s upper-class tenants.

A Cotes du Rhone red blend from France will accompany the book in what Fleck describes as a fun and casual setting.

“I think it’ll appeal to a lot of people’s palates,” Fleck said. “And I think it pairs really well with the book because the book itself is very approachable. It’s an easy, fun read. It’s very engaging.”

The book club will focus mostly on translated pieces of literature from all over the world.

The books each month are chosen by Jenna Meier-Bilbo, whose passion for introducing people to new literature is matched by Fleck’s desire to deepen people’s appreciation of wine.

“It’s fun to watch them collaborate together,” said Danielle Skov, who along with her husband, Mike Skov, bought the bookstore back in July.

The Wine and Book Club will meet upstairs at Off the Beaten Path, which was renovated along with the rest of the store in November with new tables, chairs and barstools.

And at the start of the year, Off the Beaten Path began hosting happy hours from 3-6 p.m. on Fridays with wine specials, overlapping with each month’s First Friday Artwalk.

Since taking ownership of the store, Skov has kept busy making the bookstore a community hub, either for children doing after-school tutoring or to provide alternatives to the bar scene. She said hosting events isn’t necessarily about driving up sales, but to cultivate a relationship with the store and the community.

Skov said she sees the new club as a perfect opportunity to tap into the passions and talents of Fleck and Meier-Bilbo.

While the highlighted book and bottles of the featured wine will be available to purchase, Skov said the intent of the new book club is less tangible than simply boosting the day’s sales.

“It’s hard to measure the impact of those events,” Skov said. “You can’t just look at it for the numbers of that night. It’s bigger than that.”

Fleck shares her boss’ vision, saying she wants the bookstore to expand the diversity of social offerings in Steamboat. She said that with such an influx and outflux of people, it can be tough for a lot of folks to find a sense of community.

“As much as we all love to party in this town, I wish there were more opportunities for intellectual discussions and finding community outside of a bar,” Fleck said. “Obviously, there’s still going to be wine involved, but it’s at the bookstore, it’s going to be in the loft. You can have a cup of tea if you want instead.”

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